Study Guide

The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again Chapter 12

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Chapter 12

Inside Information

  • The dwarves strongly encourage Bilbo to go down into the hole and see what's going on with Smaug.
  • Bilbo walks down the long tunnel towards a red glow. It's getting hotter and steamier the closer he gets to the center of the mountain.
  • At last, Bilbo sees Smaug: "a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep [...] with wings folded like an immeasurable bat" (12.13-4).
  • Smaug is lying on a huge bed of jewels and gold (we'll trade our flannel sheets for that any day!).
  • Bilbo sneaks up and grabs a large golden cup.
  • Bilbo thinks to himself, "I've done it! This will show [the dwarves]. 'More like a grocer than a burglar' indeed!" (12.17).
  • The dwarves are delighted by the cup – that is, until Smaug the dragon comes flying out the front gate tearing up trees and setting things on fire.
  • Quickly, they haul as much as they can into their tiny secret passageway.
  • Smaug comes flying by, flaming things along the way. He catches and eats all of their ponies (*sniff*!).
  • Back in the hole, the dwarves are now annoyed that Bilbo made Smaug angry.
  • Bilbo offers to go back down into Smaug's lair to find out more: "'Every worm has his weak spot,' as [Bilbo's] father used to say" (12.37).
  • Smaug is awake and waiting for Bilbo.
  • But, of course, Smaug can't see him, so they fall into pleasant (if tense) conversation.
  • Bilbo butters up Smaug as much as he can – "Smaug the Tremendous!" (12.45) and "Smaug the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities" (12.47), Bilbo calls him.
  • Bilbo tries not to give Smaug any direct information about where he's coming from because it might give Smaug power.
  • Even though Bilbo tries to be clever about hiding his origins, Smaug figures out that he has come through Lake-town in the company of dwarves.
  • Smaug starts to sow doubt in Bilbo's mind: why is Bilbo there alone? Why are the dwarves willing to let him do the dirty work? Is Bilbo really going to make any cash off this venture?
  • Bilbo plucks up his courage. He tells Smaug that Bilbo and his friends are there for revenge.
  • Smaug gets overconfident and rolls over to show Bilbo his solid, armored underbelly.
  • Unfortunately for Smaug, Bilbo spots something else: a patch of skin that's bare of scales. Smaug's weak point!
  • Bilbo turns to go and Smaug sends a flame after him.
  • Bilbo barely escapes with his life.
  • Bilbo tells the dwarves all that he let slip, which will point Smaug right in the direction of Lake-town.
  • Bilbo convinces the dwarves that they're in danger. Even though it seems desperate, they close the side door out of the mountain.
  • Just in time! Smaug starts throwing boulders and trees against the side of the mountain in his rage.
  • Smaug then flies to Lake-town to teach them a lesson: "They shall see me and remember who is the real King under the Mountain!" (12.101).

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